Urbandale, Iowa — Outside the Iowa headquarters for Herman Cain’s campaign, all is quiet on Friday afternoon. A large Cain 2012 banner hangs in the center of the office’s brick façade, and Cain 2012 signs paper the windows. There is no hint of the bedlam that surrounded the candidate himself all week as he struggled to defend and explain himself in light of the revelation that he was accused of sexual harassment during his time heading the National Restaurant Association.
Inside the headquarters, a couple of volunteers are making calls. Photos of Cain greeting supporters adorn the front hall, while a large, framed Declaration of Independence hangs in the main room. Along with the usual campaign paraphernalia, ample copies of Cain’s Democrat-bashing 2005 book, They Think You’re Stupid, are scattered around.Later, I find out the absence of This is Herman Cain! (I notice only one copy) is because supporters are asked to donate to the campaign in order to receive a copy (the headquarters has a limited supply), but if the books are left around, volunteers will just pocket one.
As I am talking to one of the volunteers, there is the first hint of the controversy that has embroiled the campaign. Cain’s Iowa director, Larry Tuel, strolls over and introduces himself; after I tell him I’m with National Review, he remarks, “It’s a good publication. I think it’s a little more normal than let’s say — oh, let me think — Politico, for example. You get some facts before you publish, don’t you?”
Later on, in Tuel’s office (on the side of the facility closest to the Michele Bachmann campaign’s Iowa headquarters, which is directly across the small street), he explains his frustration with the media. “This story’s been known about,” he says. “It’s not like this just popped up. I know reporters that have known about it for weeks and weeks. And all of a sudden when Mr. Cain gets to the top of the polls, ahead of Romney — 29–23 in one — then the story breaks. The timing, to me, is odd.”
“I think Politico has known about it for a while, and I think others have known about it,” he continues. “People have known about this for several weeks.” Tuel, who sports a tie featuring vintage presidential-campaign buttons and a “Raising Cain in ’12” pin, says the feedback he’s hearing from Iowans is positive. “The reaction is, they’re all behind Mr. Cain. And they think there’s a lot more to the genesis of this story and how it has come to light than what’s being reported,” he comments.
In a phone interview, Steve Grubbs, Cain’s Iowa chairman, stresses that the campaign has not faced any backlash. “Some people want us to explain what’s going on,” he says. “We don’t have people calling in to the office saying, ‘Take my name off the list.’”
The week before the allegations broke, the campaign had been signing up 25 to 30 precinct captains per day for the upcoming Iowa caucus. This week, they’ve signed up 40 to 50 people a day.